asked the Prime Minister whether, seeing that on 29th January of this year the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies announced in Trinidad that the British Government had decided to make a trade agreement with the British West Indies, guaranteeing to them the existing rate of preference in the Customs duties of the United Kingdom for 10 years, he will say what steps His Majesty's Government propose to take to redeem that pledge?
asked whether any pledge has been given by the Government that the preferential duty on sugar will be continued for 10 years; and, if so, by what authority such a pledge has been given?
I have been asked to take this question and with the permission of the hon. and gallant Member for Leith, I will answer it and 110 together. I was authorised to announce in the West Indies that His Majesty's Government would propose to Parliament the continuance of preference on existing lines to articles at present enjoying it for a period of 10 years. It is the intention of His Majesty's Government to maintain this undertaking in any relevant financial legislation which it may be their duty to submit to Parliament, as long as they continue to enjoy His Majesty's confidence; and, as my right hon. Friend stated in reply to the hon. Member for Chelsea on the 23rd February, this legislation is, and must be, subject to Parliament's approval.
May I ask the Leader of the House whether this House was consulted before the Under-Secretary was authorised to give a pledge with the Colonies that preference would be continued for ten years?
I must ask for notice of the question. I was discussing with my right hon. Friend beside me the matter of the business of the House, and I do not know what is the subject-matter of the question.
Did the Secretary of State for the Colonies know anything about this?
Yes, Sir, I most gladly co-operated in bringing it to pass.
Does the Secretary of State for the Colonies think that he is qualified to give pledges for future fiscal arrangements, without consulting the House of Commons?
This is a matter which was discussed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will be quite ready to defend his action, and I shall be quite ready to do so, too.
May I ask the Secretary for the Colonies to consider the advisability of giving an undertaking that the substantial value of the preference shall not be less than that enjoyed at present?